Similar to the positive and balanced teaching strategies—such as Beyond Discipline, Discipline with Dignity, Inner Discipline, Synergetic Discipline, and Noncoercive Discipline—I seek a flexible, adaptable, and reflective process with the understanding that one method or strategy of classroom management rarely works for all of the students all of the time. When I involve students in the classroom management process, together we democratically examine and discuss power, creativity, aesthetics, and knowledge. Students offer their different perspectives on issues and I encourage them (and myself) to seek to understand different points of view.
Preventative measures help build community and keep the community together during times of conflict or change.
1. The curriculum must be revised so it consists only of learnings that students find enjoyable and useful. The teacher’s main concern is quality, not power. (Glasser, 1985). Why not give students a choice? Who says students must read this book and only this book? Most of today’s students naturally question rules. It’s good that they think for themselves and challenge fixed notions of good or bad, right or wrong. Who says? Me as the teacher? The students help keep us honest and open. We must think deeply if we expect them to. Give them variety. Give them choice.
2. Make unconditional commitment to help your students develop, as best
you can. (Coloroso, 1994) This goes without saying. Without commitment, what is the point of teaching? People can see right through hesitancy and fear. It would be uninspiring to create a classroom void of doing your best. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Goethe, “"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back—concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now." This is why I teach within postmodern ideals.
3. Classrooms with a sense of community are more likely to develop caring and responsible students. (use class meetings) (Kohn, 1996) This challenges decades of teacher-focused systems. When students have a chance to voice their concerns and a safe place to direct any confusion or issues, classroom management goes from doling out disciplinary measure to teaching students how to respectfully solve their own problems as active participants in their own lives.
4. At the first class meeting teacher and students must work out a class agreement for instruction, learning activities, and personal behavior. (Charles, 2000) This takes time, effort, choice, giving up power, and democracy. And, it’s far superior to the typical fear-based classroom procedure of pouring over pages of school and classroom rewards, consequences, escalating discipline, and polices that the students don’t necessarily buy into or care about.
5. Respect students as individuals. (Mendler, 1983) I cannot control student’s behavior; I can only control myself. The things within my control include how I treat people and how I model being a responsible adult. I should treat students how I’d treat my colleagues, child, or self.
Once a positive and student-centered environment is created in the classroom and between the students and teacher, moving to the corrective approach is only appropriate for extreme disciplinary measures. The way to engage students is to support them in solving their issues and challenges as a community and individually.
1. “…students actively participate in decision making by expressing their opinions and working cooperatively toward solutions for the class.” (Glasser, 1985) When students think critically, weigh alternatives, and make choices about the issues important to their lives, they are empowered.
2. Programs that involve reward/punishment are counterproductive. (Change concept of doing to students > doing with students) (Kohn, 1996) If students are continually motivated positively and negatively by external factors, how will they be motivated when there is nothing in it for them but the feeling of competence, creativity, and excellence. Also, lying and cheating are present in reward/punishment systems, which go against our true nature.
3. Give students opportunity to solve their problems. Ask them how they plan to do so. (Coloroso, 1994) Rushing in to solve a problem for someone doesn’t help them learn and grow. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable with our actions and the result of our choices and decisions. Helping students see there are always solutions available to them, that they can cope and make a plan of action, brings about self-sufficiency and self-esteem.
4. Teachers do not make demands on the students, do not struggle against them, and do not force students to behave. (Charles, 2000) The harder we try, the more difficult things can become. I see teachers who repeat the same requests day after day, struggling and forcing the students to behave – it only brings about damaged relationships and more of the same.
5. Discipline must not interfere with motivation to learn. Responsibility is more important than obedience. A stronger person is developed because she is thinking critically (Mendler, 1983) I’d rather have a student who questions what I’m doing and saying than one who does what I say and loses a part of herself, our doubts himself by remaining quiet. If I cannot justify the purpose or objective then why should they be motivated to learn what I say.Corrective Approach
Even with the most involved community, sometimes the issue or problem is more serious and can involve concepts that need an adult input. Students need to be respected, but they are not adults. Sometimes they need protection and redirection.
1. When a student disrupts the class say: “It looks like you have a problem. How can I help you solve it?” Tell the student that after the lesson you will sit down with him/her and help find a solution. (Glasser, 1985) It can be hard for people to see what the real issue is. On the surface a student may respond, “I need to stop talking,” but what is the real issue? Why are they talking? What is distracting them? Do they need to move somewhere else in the room to be more effective? Maybe they can’t see the projector. Or, maybe they are not an oral learner and they need notes and need corrective actions to bring about their success.
2. When misbehavior does occur teachers identify and deal with the cause, keeping an attitude of gentle helpfulness. When trust is built the teacher should look for the cause of misbehavior and attempt to correct it. (Charles, 2000) I can be corrective and kind. If I try to correct before there is trust, I can damage the relationship and the community.
3. Students should be involved as partners in problem resolution. (Kohn, 1996) Different points of view allow students to consider alternatives they might not have considered before and be open to other ideas.
4. Get across to students that it’s OK, even beneficial, to make mistakes, and that no problem is so great that it can’t be solved. (Coloroso, 1994) This is a rule we have in my home as well. We call it “Yeah Mistake” because mistakes are how you learn. With reflection and corrective action, mistakes are beneficially. If students already knew what to do and how to collaborate what would be the purpose of them attending school?
5. [A] teacher effectively dealing with chatting students, the teacher asks the student to excuse herself from the classroom, and the teacher allows the student to make up her own mind that she can only return to the classroom when she is finished talking and can return. This makes sitting in the classroom a privilege, rather than forcing a student to be quiet. The student is the one who ultimately chooses her destiny. (Mendler, 1983) In the real world, sometimes a more serious corrective action may be needed. I thought this example helped the student be empowered and thoughtful about their actions.
A preventive, supportive, and corrective democratic classroom models our democratic country. The postmodern education philosophy informs my management and teaching style which is grounded in treating the learner as an independent thinker who deserves respect and autonomy. These approaches help the student bring out their inner motivation as they follow their path through education and into the world as thoughtful, community-based, and strong adults.